What is the recycling protocol on Penn’s campus?

Dear Benny,
I recently learned that the recycling rules on Penn’s campus changed. I know I used to be able to recycle all plastic, including plastic bags. Now, that’s no longer the case. Can you update me on the University’s recycling rules? What about composting?
—Sustainable Sam

Dear Sam,
Thinking green is always the way to be, so I’m glad you checked in with this important question.

Like all commodities, recycling has a value and the need for it changes with demand in the market.

Usually, at least once per year, there’s a significant change in the recycling and waste market, altering what is accepted, and the University updates the change on its Facilities & Real Estate Services website.

Right now, the University’s vendor takes all hard plastic bottles and containers, and all glass, aside from light bulbs or window glass. It takes standard paper, including softcover books, office paper, and magazines, and clean cardboard. All metals, including cans, tops, and aluminum foil and trays, are accepted, too.

Packing materials like bubble wrap and packing peanuts, Styrofoam, tissue paper, paper towels, and plastic wrap and bags shouldn’t be recycled. If you wish to recycle plastic bags, there are depositories in certain stores on or near campus.

When it comes to composting, there are 12 locations on campus, and pickup is twice per week. In 2015, the University composted 112 tons of food waste on campus, says Dan Garofalo, Penn’s environmental sustainability director.

For the past year and a half, Penn has focused its composting process to the back-of-house only. That includes the kitchen prep in several food establishments on campus. It is all pre-consumer to limit contamination.

For more information, including how and where to properly dispose of batteries, electronics, shoes, clothes, and furniture, visit www.facilities.upenn.edu.


Got a question for Benny? Send it via email to current@pobox.upenn.edu or via regular mail to the Current, 3901 Walnut St., Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19104.